The Department of National Archives and Record Services is on the brink of paralysis as it is experiencing a debilitating hemorrhage of skilled labour, and the Oral Tradition project has been suspended as a result. Sunday Standard investigations have revealed that another equally affected programme is that of appraising records from the different Government departments, with the result that bundles of records remain unattended.
“Things are made even more complex by the fact that the BNARS building itself is a record centre, therefore any delays in designating the records their rightful place in the domain of the records systems could result in a terrible mix up, in the long term.” said one former employee who preferred not to reveal their identity.
Furthermore he said that although the BNARS is a record centre, there are other record centers in Francistown and in Kanye, but they are presently under utilized because most
Government records from various departments are being piled at the National Archives since they cannot be passed to the records centers until they are appropriately appraised.
Kelebogile Kgabi, Director of BNARS said, “No, it is not true. All records in the custody of the Department are in the care of professional staff.” Kgabi further said that all records due for appraisal have been appraised, and the appraisal process will continue on a yearly basis as records qualify in line with the National Archives Act.
Dr. Segomotso Keakopa, a senior Lecturer in the Department of Archives and Electronic Records Systems Management at the University of Botswana, said, “The practice of archiving dictates that on receiving records, as in the case of sending them away they must be filed in a manner that its readily easier to trace their origin” keakopa hastened to point out that, by the same token, “Once records or files are considered non active, that is, when they are no longer of any immediate operational value, they need to be subjected to a process by which it is determined whether they should be destroyed or classified as archives”. According to Keakopa, this is what is referred to as ‘appraisal’.
Nonetheless, the UB lecturer who is herself a former employee of the BNARS maintains that, in line with the principles of Provenance and Original order, the appraisal process is such that, there should be a committee made up of Heads of units, plus records managers and archivists who would normally have been seconded from the BNARS. “The reason the Heads of units are involved in the committee is that it is presumed that, they head functions that generate the records, and therefore properly placed to judge the values of records. Following on from this angle it then becomes easier to determine what is known as retention schedule.
Nevertheless there is a concern that the response in relation to committees is not as well as desired, save for a few departments.
Information unearthed by Sunday Standard, reveal that the Department lost at least more than 14 skilled, qualified and experienced employees in the past five years alone. 9 of them were Masters Graduates, trained at the University College London, University of Wales and University Liverpool respectively, in the United Kingdom, whilst 6 graduated from the University of Botswana.
The appraisal of records is moving at snail pace, with the risk that of indicate that, the BNARS has lost at least nine(9) UK trained, Masters Graduates who had served the department for a fairly long period, and had amassed remarkably extensive experience in the course of their service prior to going for further studies. A further six (6) resigned after completing their advanced studies at the University of Botswana. Responding on the issue of staff exodus, Kgabi had this to say, “…until the market of demand for professionals stabilizes, the situation will continue to prevail”.
Sunday Standard’s impeccable sources have intimated that lack of motivation and absence of opportunities for progression are also a demoralizing factor. Professor Neil Parsons, and a regular user of the archives, said, in an interview with this paper, “This one area that needs extra ordinary passion and enthusiasm”.
Additionally, Keakopa said, “I am afraid; the department could continue to be a training ground for other organizations at great expense for that matter”.
On whether the Department is properly placed, Kgabi said, “..We are happy with our placement”. Although the BNARS official denied that there are any suspended programme, she acknowledged the seriousness of the problem when she said, “The immigration of staff has affected continuity of programmes as any new officers recruited have to be provided with guidance and training before they can deliver at the appropriate level.” Furthermore, Kgabi said, “The Department has not been able to reap the full rewards of training staff as the majority of officers have left after training”.